do you Want?
was a few minutes after midnight January 1958 when
I realized that I was going to fail in architecture.
I was alone and had celebrated the New Year by myself.
My celebration was to take the time to think about
my nearly two years of work in architecture and what
they meant. A time to be brutally honest with the
was finishing my work in Red Bluff California and
getting ready to join the Taliesin Fellowship in Arizona.
By this time, I had acquired enough experience in
architects offices to know that this path was
not for me. I was to find that even Taliesin - a place
that I came to love - was also not
for me. This revelation was in the future - in
the present there was still this small measure of
do you want?
was the question I asked. The answer was immediate
and a surprise. I saw a rolling landscape with
a scattered yet integrated community of people and
their habitats. A community
of Cathedral Builders. It was much like Taliesin
as I imagined it to be. But it was clearly not
Taliesin - and that was the surprise. I briefly
experienced a place of true collaboration and
the ability to act effectively and comprehensively
in the real world. Yet, also a place of refuge, of
quite, beauty and organizational serenity. An organization
of peers with skills that ranged all over the many
fields of interest related to architecture, technology
and society. This IMAGE came a a gestalt -
it actually took me several years to unravel all of
it and to remember each piece that made up the whole.
As I learned, new aspects would be revealed with greater
clarity - like pealing an onion.
have tried a couple of times to make this place. My
name for it is Renascense - the act of rebirth. I
believe that it may be possible now because the specific
of it is now becoming clear - and that has been missing
before. It took years to grasp what I wanted to do
and put that intent into the CONTEXT of the
time and place that makes the world of which I am
a part. As I did so, the PROBLEM that was created
was as shocking as the realization that I would fail
in my original vision of architecture. I set out to
design buildings - mostly houses. Today, I am setting
out to design a WORLD through a collaborative
process - neither of things were on my mind in
1958. Yet, every decision, every fork in the road,
every bridge burned behind, lead one step at a time
to this starting point. It seems strange even to me
- a bit anyway - to be starting at age
63 after 45 years of work.
has taken a long time for me and the society I live
in - and am now beginning to effect - to merge toward
some kind of rough compatibility. That is what the
autobiographical aspect of this web site is about
- an attempt to understand these 45 years. There is
a great deal of paradox here. The society, in general,
seems (to me) even more alienated to what I believe
- at the same time - there seems to be a growing window
to implement based on what I believe. This may be
the result of life cycles and the gap between generations.
It may that a certain amount of alienation - and,
thus, detachment - is necessary for doing the kind
of work I do. I know this: the greatest pleasure I
get is working with young architects and seeing their
eyes come alive when I can show them that there IS
a way to build with integrity. It is like I have become
a store house that only they will be able to empty.
have always been a misfit - and remain so. Is it possible
you can just get good at it?
early morning at the beginning of 1958 was shocking
to me. Up until then, I had thought it was merely
a matter of growing up and finding the creative people
that would want to build great things. I had thought
that my condition was only one of childhood. I found
out it was not. I was experiencing a symptom of a
far deeper, more general, systemic problem. I did
not understand it then. I still do not in the way
of understanding that one can call experience. I understand
it only intellectually. I once believed that if I
could only build an alternative that many would be
able to see it - and, they would respond positively.
I do not know if that is true today. I still am compelled
to built, however. I am also easier with the idea
that it may be rejected. I am OK with the market ignoring
my product - I am not resolved to the option never
making it to the market at all. The great thing about
the WWW is that at least each of us can publish our
experience and find those of like-intentions. This
fact, alone, makes the waiting easier.
paradox is that what I have built has been
highly regarded by most of those who have used
these environments. In fact these small offerings
- only a fraction of the vision - have often been
heaped with praise. However, this has never made
getting the next one started any easier.
I thought it would. The 109 projects that I am documenting
on the web site - all together - make a body of work
that SAYS something. What has been built
- so far - is only the overture - and a short one
that. Given the nature of what has been built, there
have been few clients and many, many users. Thousands
have used my work and very few have any awareness
of it as
a totality. What it ADDS up to, therefore,
is almost a total unknown to those who use it.
is no telling what will be the result as the larger
picture starts to be revealed.
poignancy is this: nearly 43 years ago I realized
that I would not succeed at building modest habitats
- art pieces, really, for a small group of patron
clients. Now, I am proposing projects of immense scale
that effect a globe. About 25 years ago I was asked
what I wanted to do in architecture and I said (with
a smile) just to rebuild the world for a 10%
fee. At the time I thought I was joking. I never
set out to regard the earth both as a living
AND as an artifact
to be be designed.
in 1958, I forced my self to look failure in the eye
- an unnatural act for a 20 year old - it did not
change anything that I did for a number of years.
In fact, I kept plowing ahead - undaunted and determined
- until I crashed and burned in 1974.
This ended one era (which really started in 1950)
and started another that took me to today which is
now ending as 2001 is ending. The task now is to put
these two pieces together in a way that can add up
to something use-full. As I do this, this exercise
in self-reflection will be finished - at least for
awhile. My experience is that a life MISSION
is not self-chosen - it
chooses you. Those we call genius
are those that do not run away from the given
challenge - they embrace it. The mission may be given
but the way to realize it is a path of many
choices. The rules you play by are self-chosen
and result from the most important decisions one ever
makes. This is the integrity issue. I choose integrity.
I also decided that I would not allow myself to hide
behind the skirts of genius and eccentricity.
I wanted practical results and a human life along
with it. The ambitions of youth can only be the result
of ignorance, native arrogance and exuberant imagination.
However, I will not go back on it now. All these years
I have had the VISION that came that New Years
morning - against this has been years of sometimes
bitter experience. Vision won. I will never repent.
Besides, along the way I have had some damn good times.
when I teach my Architectural
Practice Course, I encourage my students to follow
their dream and to do it with eyes wide open.
To match their ambitions with their willingness
to risk and their true requirements as a human. Bringing
new ART (of any kind) to the world is not about
conflict with the world. I have always believed
that the burden of proof is with the innovator. The
burden of honesty, however, is with the society and
that is another matter to be discussed elsewhere.
am a conceptual thinker but not an abstract thinker.
To me, an idea has to be linked directly with a project
and with an environment in which to do the project.
Otherwise is makes no SENSE to me. No matter
how well written, or how well drawn, it does not matter
to me unless it is built. To the extent that I let
it happen, I suffer when I cannot build. My building
are tangible things before my eyes. They DEMAND
to be real. They rebuke me when I fail to bring them
to life. This is one reason why I have deliberately
chosen, until now, to conceive so few projects. It
has been too painful. In the past two years, I have
changed course. 15 of 109 works have been born in
recent these times and many more are on the way. In
addition, many orphans of the past are being readapted
to the present - their time has come. The BODY
of the work is emerging.
thing that any passionate artist has to watch
The edge between this and self-awareness is thin.
I started this web site, in 1998, with my essay
portion of the site has deliberately been an exploration
of my past. I wanted to make sense of it and understand
where I was. There are still many holes. A 63 year
is a long one. I will continue to fill these in.
Beginning in 2002, my focus will progressively turn to creating PRODUCT
on this site. The exclusive biography focus stops - for a time -
with 2001 although I will keep the year-to-year story documented. The pattern
of the past has revealed itself. The rest is
truth is that there is no such thing as success or failure
- there is just life. Success and failure are utility
concepts that help with the act of navigation. They
make way-points possible. Ideas about success and failure
should never be uploaded to the realm of the metaphysical.
They are not measures of reality. They cannot define
or judge experience. If taken too seriously, they can
generate fear and kill the ability to produce. Life has
to be lived not managed. Children, biological or intellectual, have to be let go.
There is risk in this... and, there is hope.
March 31, 1999
voice of this document:
VISION STRATEGY EVALUATE
click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox
March 31, 1999
December 15, 2001
this document is about 75% finished)
Cpoyright© Matt Taylor 1999, 2000, 2001